Break the Rules to Get Ahead
Often when we embark on a health and fitness journey we believe we need to set rules and stick to them. The rules are things like "no sugar" and "3 sets of 10 exercises every day" and "limit snacks to one per day."
Rules can work. When you opt in to a challenge, it's because you believe the rules of the challenge might be the key to finally getting fit and healthy.
But if rules work, why then do we so often lose our muster and fall off the wagon? Why do we only last two weeks on our new plan and find ourselves again feeling unmotivated or bored or too restricted?
Trainers will tell you to find your "WHY" and operate from there. I don't disagree, but something about that is too "meh" for me.
Instead, I find it helpful to identify PRINCIPLES, and use those to guide behaviors.
According to dictionary.com, a principle is "a general and fundamental truth that may be used in deciding conduct or choice: to adhere to principle.”
The principles behind exercise and nutrition are things like:
To take care of my physical health
To be able to move better
To get stronger and feel better
To lower my risk of degenerative diseases
To be able to participate in activities with my kids
When you operate from a place of understanding the PRINCIPLES that are important to you, it doesn't matter so much what the rules are. What matters is that you choose exercises and nutrition to support your principles.
There's a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that goes nicely with this concept:
“Methods are many, principles are few. Methods may change, but principles never do."
Let's dissect this a bit.
“Methods are many.”
There are many ways to get fit. You can lift weights, run, swim, bike, or practice yoga.
There are also many ways to improve your nutrition. You can give up sugar, eat more protein, eat fewer fried foods, or eat more vegetables.
“Principles are few.”
If there are dozens of methods you can use to get fit or improve your nutrition, the principles behind why you choose to use them are few and rarely change.
“Methods may change, but principles never do.”
You might grow tired of running and take up biking for a change. You might plateau doing strength training and add plyometrics. You might cross-train using yoga and step aerobics. And still, those things support your underlying fitness principles.
You might first work on controlling your portions, and then tackle eating less sugar. And both of those things still support your underlying nutrition and health principles.
People often mistake rules for principles.
A rule is “no fast food for lunch” whereas a principle is “I need nutrient-rich food to support my healthy” - and by that principle, it makes sense to eat fast food for lunch less often without having to punish yourself for the occasional indulgence.
A rule is "I must do 30 minutes of exercise every day" whereas a principle is "I need to exercise to maintain an optimal weight and be strong" - and by that principle, it makes sense to commit to regular exercise in order to achieve your goal.